TODAY IS GALWAY PLATE day in Ballybrit, with racing getting underway at much earlier time at three o’clock this afternoon.
The day’s feature, a 2m6f handicap chase, goes to post at 17:25 and is a wide-open contest with 22 runners set to compete.
All of the talk — and the early money — has been for Bahrain Storm. Pat Flynn’s eight-year-old has plenty of course form, with a win and second place in the prestigious Galway Hurdle over the last year. Running off bottom weight of just ten stone, it is easy to see why he is the preferred choice of many. The majority of his career has been spent over the smaller obstacles, but two recent wins over fences have shown that he hasn’t quite lost the form which saw him win a Grade 3 contest as a chasing novice.
Joining him at the top of the pile is Willie Mullins’ Blazing Tempo, the mount of Paul Townend. The Plate hasn’t been Mullins’ most successful stomping ground — in fact, he is yet to train a winner of the race. On recent form, this seven-year-old mare has the credentials to buck that trend, particularly in light of her second place finish behind Wishfull Thinking at Punchestown in her only outing since finishing fifth in the Jewson at Cheltenham.
“King of Ballybrit” Dermot Weld is always a danger and, following on from yesterday’s festival treble, he will be hoping that Majestic Concorde can bring home the stable’s fifth Galway Plate. A 33/1 winner of the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown last Christmas, the main black mark against the eight-year-old is the 11st4lbs that he carries. Nine of the race’s last ten winners have carried less than 11 stone, a trend which will give many reason to doubt his chances. The good ground will work to his advantage though and he shouldn’t be ruled out entirely.
Last year’s winner Fingeronthepulse is one of six runners in the iconic colours of JP McManus, but he will need to be at his best to overturn his early-season form and retain his title. Dancing Tornado is the preferred ride of AP McCoy — normally a telling indicator — but he will have to battle hard to scupper the trend which hasn’t seen a 10-year-old win the race since 1996.
Of the other main McManus contenders, Wise Old Owl is ideally weighted and comes from the in-form yard of John Kiely which had two winners on the festival’s opening day. At the tail end of the weights, Niall “Slippers” Madden and the relatively unexposed Dr Whizz will also be in the shake-up.
Elsewhere on the card, Willie Mullins’ Laganbank looks to be the one to beat in the day’s first race, a two-mile maiden hurdle (15:00). Dermot Weld’s Galileo’s Choice will hardly be without friends but this could just be a step too far on his hurdling debut.
If there is only to be one winner for Weld this afternoon, it is likely to be Mutasharef in the 1m4f maiden flat race at 16:35. After finishing fourth behind two promising sorts on his April debut at Leopardstown, the American three-year-old is expected to benefit from the extra two furlongs and the fitting of blinkers for the first time.
Meanwhile, the eyes of the racing world will be on Glorious Goodwood this afternoon for one of the most anticipated races in recent memory — the mouth-watering clash between Frankel and Canford Cliffs in the Sussex Stakes (15:10).
On a level-playing field, there would be little to choose between the pair, but the eight-pound allowance which Frankel receives as a three-year-old should be enough for him to steal the crown from the defending champion.
Nap of the day
Frankel — though at a best price of 8/11, Henry Cecil’s star is hardly the most imaginative pick. He idled just a little bit in beating Zoffany last time out at Ascot, but with the weight advantage and a focused ride from Tom Queally, he should be good enough to add another win to a sparkling season.
With some firms paying out on five places for the Plate, it could be worth taking a punt on Dancing Tornado at 12/1. Although lightly raced so far this season, his handicap chasing form has been good this season, with two second-place finishes from three runnings, including a game showing behind Little Josh in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.